When I first read about a novel coronavirus quickly spreading across China in late 2019, a great sense of foreboding washed over me. As someone with depression and anxiety, I felt an urgent need to bathe myself in worst-case-scenarios. I turned to pandemic fiction.

My subconscious was craving confirmation that…

Sarah Jinner and the wild world of 17th century advice

Sarah Jinner’s 1658 almanac.

We don’t know much about the life of English astrologer Sarah Jinner, when she was born, when she died. What we do know is that she lived in London and published three almanacs between 1658 and 1664. …

Henrietta Vansittart portrait: examining a scale model of a ship and its Lowe-Vansittart propeller.

Henrietta’s tale is one worthy of Hollywood treatment: as inspiring, titillating, and tragic as any portrait of historical male genius that’s regularly plastered across our screens.

Born into a poor family, her intelligence and hard work saw her eventually enjoy a successful career when she took up her father’s mantle…

Elizabeth Fulhame discovers catalysis and plants the seeds of photography

Everyone knows Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius discovered chemical catalysis in 1835, right? He described it as “the property of exerting on other bodies an action which is very different from chemical affinity. By means of this action, they produce decomposition in bodies, and form new compounds into the composition…

While tending to the medical needs of southern Civil War casualties, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was kidnapped by confederate soldiers. She was taken, under guard, from Georgia to Richmond, Virginia and thrown in a cell. It was April 1864, and Mary was serving as assistant surgeon in the Union Army.

May Edward Chinn at Teachers College, 1917. Courtesy George B. Davis, Ph.D. Photograph by E. F. Foley, N. Y.

May was a musician. An incredibly talented pianist. She spent several years as accompanist for Paul Robeson (a renowned performer best known for his rendition of “Ol’ Man River”). She entered Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1917, with plans to major in music. …

The wiping out of women healers in medieval Europe

Old painting of a witch being tortured

“Do you heal sick persons?” the imposing interrogator asked the frail, aging woman.

“Yes, sir,” replied Gostanza da Libbiano, a 60-year-old nun who practiced as a midwife and healer in Tuscany, Italy. …

Zuzana Burivalova records data in a gardening zone in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Justine E. Hausheer/TNC

When Eddie Game straps the first wallet-sized recording device around a tree trunk in Papua New Guinea, he’s so deep in the Adelbert Mountains it’s a three-day hike from the closest road. A second device is secured on a neighboring tree. One will capture ultrasonic sounds imperceptible to human ears…

Olivia Campbell

Journalist & author on women, science, history. Bylines: WaPo, Atlantic, The Cut, Aeon, Smithsonian, Guardian, SciAm. WOMEN IN WHITE COATS 2021 HarperCollins.

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